Written for City Church Lagos
Nigerian Patriotism seems to be as prevalent as camels walking through Oshodi market – it’s not impossible but it’s certainly a bewildering and somewhat amusing sight.
This is probably because when most think of Nigeria, we think of unfulfilled promises, lacklustre citizenry and governance compounded by the chasmic divisions in religion and ethnicity.
We aren’t so quick to recall how Cocoa House, in Ibadan, was the first skyscraper in West Africa or the “₦1 = $2” days or USA ’94 with Rashidi Yekini grabbing the net as he celebrated Nigeria’s first-ever World Cup goal. We were all taught that the Nigerian dream was to see one nation — our nation — bound in freedom, peace and unity through the service of strong and faithful compatriots. Now, some of us look back on our heroes past and politely wonder if their labour was not in vain whilst others question if we had any true heroes at all.
Some would say it is because we remember, so vividly, tales of the “golden years” and how far we seem to have fallen that we have collectively decided to outgrow our love for the fatherland and relegate patriotism to “Jollof Wars”. It seems like the amended Nigerian dream is to be a successful Nigerian away from and in spite of Nigeria, with success being, but not limited to, obtaining dual citizenship or permanent residency elsewhere!
So how do we deal with this as Christians in Nigeria? What should our response to patriotism be? Is it even biblical? Isn’t the new heavens and earth our real home?
Stephen Nathanson, a professor emeritus in philosophy at Northeastern University, Boston, defines patriotism as involving:
- Special affection for one’s own country
- A sense of personal identification with the country
- Special concern for the well-being of the country
- Willingness to sacrifice to promote the country’s good
It’s easy to fulfill these criteria when your country abides by its social contract and fares well in global development indices and expectations. It’s increasingly tougher to be patriotic when it seems like your country is designed to be intentionally ineffectual.
As Christians, we often wax lyrical about the inherent goodness of God who is sovereign in the affairs of men but we often don’t grasp its full implications. Some Christians may argue that country borders and nationality are completely arbitrary concepts therefore this reality makes the need for patriotism redundant but Proverbs 16:33 tells us we may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.
Essentially, this means that even seemingly random occurrences and actions fall under God’s providential governance.
For instance, when a rambunctious baby girl was born to Nigerian parents in Nigeria in 1992 – this was God’s providence – and it was a good thing! The wider implication is that being a Nigerian (in Nigeria) is God’s providence! It is divinely inspired and is a good thing! We didn’t lose the cosmic geographic lottery – we are exactly who we’re supposed to be (ethnically) and exactly where we’re supposed to be (geographically).
In a sense, God has sent us to Nigeria! So, it follows that we must care for and love the place where God has sent us. We must think of ourselves as sent here by God for his glory. Because we are! This doesn’t mean that Nigeria is the most perfect country in history or we should downplay or ignore its flaws! It simply means that we work for God in Nigeria!
Colossians 3:23-24 tells us whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
If this isn’t enough, we are also commanded in Matthew 22:39 to love our neighbours as ourselves.
If you’re still not convinced that Nigeria is your Place of Primary Assignment, and you’re only here temporarily, the Prophet Jeremiah has a word for you!
Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.
Any way you slice it, as Christians, we are called to love where we find ourselves and seek its flourishing in the best possible way!
Practically we can do this by:
- Earnestly praying for our country and leaders
- Thanking God for the blessings he has given us in Nigeria
- Championing participation in our civic duties (pay taxes, don’t litter, vote, abide by traffic rules etc.)
- Learning our history and passing it on to future generations!
Because God is good, being Nigerian is good.
Because God loves us, we are to love and work for the good of Nigeria.
I pledge to Nigeria, my country
To be faithful, loyal, and honest
To serve Nigeria with all my strength
To defend her unity
And uphold her honor and glory
So help me God.